Supporting Friends with Mental Health Issues

Every year 1 in 5 Australians will experience mental illness, that means you will know someone coping with a mental illness at some point in your life. It can be a hard thing to talk about but your help and support could really make a difference in your friend’s life.

How can I help?

If you’re worried about someone, try to encourage them to seek support, there are many different places to go for help. They can visit their doctor, call the beyondblue helpline or access online counselling from a youth mental health worker at eheadspace.

Youth beyondblue has come up with four key ways to support your friend:
  1. Look out for the signs. Things like always being tired, feeling down, or not hanging out with their friends as much could be signs that something serious is going on. If you notice these changes check if your friend is ok.
  2. Listen to their experiences. Listen to your friend but don’t pressure them if they don’t want to talk about it, let them know that you are always there if they need you.
  3. Talk about what’s going on. This can be really tricky, especially if you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Something simple like “I’ve noticed you’ve been really down lately” is a good place to start, and let them know you are willing to just listen to how they are feeling.
  4. Seek help together. Let your friend know that there are lots of places they can go for help. Offer to make them an appointment with their doctor and go with them if it will make them less nervous about it. Click here for more info.

It’s important to remember not to pressure your friend to seek help if they’re not ready, just let them know that you’re there for them and will help them when they are. You can also download the Check-in app for some great ways to start a conversation about mental health.

Helping a friend who is suicidal

If you think your friend is in immediate danger call emergency services on 000, take them to the closest hospital emergency department, call a mental health service in your state or call the beyondblue helpline on 1300 22 4636.

If your friend is talking about suicide, saying goodbye or giving away their possessions it’s really important to tell someone so that you can help them. Tell their family, a school counsellor or a teacher you trust so they can help you. If you’re not sure what to do you can call the beyondblue helplineKids Helpline, or access online support from eheadspace. Even if you promised your friend you wouldn’t tell anyone, you should still seek help so they can get the support they need.

Possible warning signs someone is thinking about suicide include:

  • talking or writing about death
  • talking or writing about feeling trapped with no way out
  • feeling hopeless and withdrawing from friends and family
  • giving away their possessions
  • drinking more or taking more drugs than usual
  • doing dangerous things
  • having hallucinations or delusions
  • self-harming
You can also look at Lifeline’s steps for talking to someone about suicide:
  1. Ask

    If you think someone might be suicidal, ask them directly “Are you thinking about suicide?” Don’t be afraid to do this, it shows you care and will actually decrease their risk because it shows someone is willing to talk about it. Make sure you ask directly and unambiguously.
    If it’s an emergency call emergency services on 000 or take you friend to the closest hospital emergency department. If it’s not an emergency you can call the beyondblue helplineKids Helpline for help.

  2. Listen and stay with them
    If they say ‘yes’, they are suicidal, listen to them and allow them to express how they are feeling. Don’t leave them alone. Stay with them or get someone else reliable to stay with them.
  3. Get help
    Get them appropriate help. Call a crisis line like Lifeline 13 11 14 or 000 if life is in danger. If you can get in straight away visit a GP or psychologist. Even if the danger is not immediate they may need longer term support for the issues that led to them feeling this way. It could be family, a school counsellor or teacher, a doctor, beyondblue Kids Helpline or eheadspace.For more information click here.

If your friend refuses to get help, make sure you tell an adult you trust so that they are safe.

Look after yourself too.

Supporting your friend might be really difficult for you too, it may be really emotionally draining and stressful. It’s important to remember to look after yourself as well. Make some time to relax, or do something that will help reduce your stress levels. Talk to someone you trust about what you are feeling, like a parent, teacher or school counsellor. You can call Kids Helpline or beyondblue or chat online at eheadspace.

Click here for a list of Support Services.